We should keep our eye on Thrace as well, as it's on Turkey's agenda

Ω Kostas Karaiskos
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We should keep our eye on Thrace as well, as Turkey does not forget it, Costas Karaiskos

In the general maelstrom of Greek-Turkish relations, with the focus mainly on the Dodecanese, we must not miss the firm and finally clear Turkish targeting of Thrace. We may not have spectacular events, such as the voyages of warships, but there is an ongoing - unfortunately and successful - Turkish move to "reclaim" the status quo in the region.

The other side speaks openly: the president of the Directorate of Turkish Expatriates, Abdullah Eren, talks about illegal practices and policy of assimilation of the Greek state, and threatens Greece that "Turkey is next to the Turks of western Thrace and will defend rights and justice of the expatriates ".

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy accuses Greece of "violating the Lausanne Treaty because it does not recognize muftis elected by the Turkish minority" and called on Greece "not to make the mistake of imposing illegally appointed muftis". .He also called on Greece to implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights regarding NGO-clubs banned by the Greek authorities and to meet the requirements for kindergartens and schools of all levels for the minority.

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told the Anadolu news agency that Ankara was ready for dialogue on both the Aegean and the "Turkish community in Western Thrace". In the English-language edition of Hurriyet, Aksoi again stated that "for the last 25 years Greece has been closing the schools of the Turkish minority in Thrace and is violating its rights to free education".

But the Turkish Foreign Minister himself, speaking to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, said "harassment to the detriment of the suffering Turkish minority". Of course, what matters is more what the Greek side does and not what the other side claims. And that is the problem.

As everyone's attention is focused on the Aegean and Kastellorizo, decisions of Thracian interest are taken or expected in Athens, that are all but unpleasant for Ankara. And I will address two specific issues of major importance, where the government's stance foretells bad developments.

Bakoyannis and the dangerous Turkish association

The first is the possibility of recognizing the reirredentist unions of the Turkish Union of Xanthi type by the Supreme Court in the autumn, with the consent of the government. We had once shown that the nature and the targeting of the Turkish Union of Xanthi and its leaders is nothing more than the undermining of Greek sovereignty in Greek Thrace and the promotion of Turkish fascism within it, without any exaggeration.

We had the worst development in the issue during the days of Dora Bakoyannis at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008, when we lost the case with our hands down in the European Court of Human Rights. This happened, although there was a favorable precedent for the banning of a German association in Silesia. So we did not even invoke this precedent ratified by the European Court in the case of the Turkish Union of Xanthi.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems inconceivable to me that the public opinion is silenced with laws of ritual logic about "hate rhetoric" in a series of issues and that an association that only distributes hatred against the country where it is based can not be legally dealt with through deeds and words! At least the Turkish Union of Xanthi, through its occasional presidents and initiatives, has given countless samples of anti-Greek writing, but in this sense, our defensive line has never moved.

Today, when our country receives so many offensive attacks and obscene threats from Turkey, how can we recognize as legitimate a union that celebrates our Asia Minor Catastrophe praising the "holy heroes" (of the enemy), who bring chauvinist films like "1453" from the Turkey for free screenings and makes memorials to Turkish soldiers in Xanthi? If the writing of Manolis Kottakis really reflects the climate in the ranks of the Athenian government, we are facing a crime against the nation.

Achieving results

The second issue is equally important and concerns the religious leadership of the minority. Since we recognize a religious minority under the Treaty of Lausanne, the persons we recognize as muftis are of paramount importance. I note that for two years we have been in Xanthi and Komotini with the temporary Monitors appointed by the State, Bilal Kara Halil and Halil Jihad respectively.

Despite the infinite problems that have arisen, especially from the behavior of the latter, the system of power still supports these choices, regardless of the opinion of all the services involved. It is characteristic that in Komotini, for the 60 positions of preachers, only 42 applications were made this year - from 97 a few years ago, under Metsos Tzemalis - some of which were rejected.

And the issue is not only numerical but also qualitative, through whose intervention are those people who have supported the institutions of the state and the rule of law are unjustifiably cut off ("by Athens")? Therefore, the threat of Turkey "not to dare and appoint muftis" on the one hand seems to be taking place and on the other hand to bear fruit with the deforestation of the landscape in terms of the image of our country in the eyes of minority society.

When we return to the point when the official Mufti of Komotini is just an empty suit, especially if the clerical/judicial powers (the so-called "Sharia") are abolished as rumored, there will not be many arguments for another crucial retreat. Do some want to get to that point?

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